How to successfully crowdfund a music project

Brazilian drummer Daniel Plentz knows all about the pros and cons of music crowdfunding.

Two years ago, Plentz’s band Selton (pictured) raised US $10,370 from 205 separate pledges on IndieGogo.

It was a triumphant campaign for the Beatles-esque four-piece, surpassing their targets and providing them with the finances they needed to create a new album.

But, for Plentz, some elements of the experience came with a steep learning curve.

For one thing, he noticed that only a small portion of Selton’s funding was derived from individuals who weren’t already registered as fans of the band.

And the group wasn’t given an easy ride by all of their fans, attracting criticism from some quarters for asking for direct financial ‘help’ from people who’d already paid to hear them and see their gigs.

Today, Italy-based Plentz has used these lessons to become part-musician, part entrepreneur.

Loaded with experience on the ‘dos’ and ‘do nots’ of crowdfunding, Plentz is now COO of Musicraiser – a rival to the likes of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and PledgeMusic.

Founded in 2012 by Italian musician Giovanni Gulino, Musicraiser has already helped raise €1.6m for over 500 projects in Italy.

The music-focused service recently launches offices in the US and UK, and offers artists additional benefits beyond crowdfunding; these include free digital distribution via Tunecore, consultations with industry experts and, for selected projects, investment in marketing campaigns.

Here, Plentz offers advice to artists and managers looking to raise funds through any crowdsourcing platform – and explains what, to his mind, makes Musicraiser more friendly to artists than any of its competitors.

Don’t go begging

We were one of the first bands to use crowdfunding to fund the creation of an album in Italy, so it raised a lot of debate.

I heard it all: “You are begging for money!” “No, this is the model that will save the music industry!”

Ultimately, I learnt that saying to your fans: “Please, help me” is always going to be a difficult place to start.

It’s usually better to have the mindset that you are giving people the chance to be part of something.

Crowdfunding is all about connecting with the emotions of people. It’s not people rationally thinking: “Okay, on balance I would like to buy this.”

Because of that it’s important to give people reasons to want to engage with your project.

However, when we speak to artists on Musicraiser, some want to keep the tone of asking fans for help, and – because the artist knows their fans better than anyone – there’s nothing wrong with it.

But I would advise any artist considering this approach to really think through their campaign first.

You can’t really tells your fans you desperately need their funding and then try to sell them signed CDs for €15.

Who cares about your signature, man? I thought you were asking for my help?

Don’t just think about records

One area in which we’ve been really successful on Musicraiser is with campaigns for live tours – we offer a pre-order campaign service for any product that you want to release, and that includes tickets.

We’ve created a pre-order model specifically for live concerts that means you don’t need to measure what you need to raise in money, but in ticket sales.

I really think this is an important future step for crowdfunding in general: if an artist reach the minimum amount needed to cover the show, they’re able to play the concert.

We know that promoters take huge risks on shows every day, and that many over the years have suffered through not selling out shows.

This way, there’s no money spent up front by their artist or their team; the shows only happen after you’ve guaranteed the tickets, so there’s much less risk.

Don’t get greedy

It is not unusual for us at Musicraiser to actually say no to a project. You have to be careful not to fatigue your audience or ask too much of them.

For example, we’ve seen people wanting to raise money for a tour straight after coming off another tour.

Ask yourself: has the demand really built up enough for you to ask your fans for funding again? How much are you risking annoying your fans?

We are only interested in building projects that have credibility; at the end of the day, they’re the only ones that will be successfully funded.

And successfully funded projects are best for us, the fans and the artists.

Don’t expect exposure to make you a star

When my band were on IndieGogo, we got features on the front page of the site. We were also mentioned on the blog as a success story and were in the official newsletter.

But by the end of the campaign, we noticed that less than 10% of those people who had backed us weren’t already fans.

If you have a furniture design or video games project on a crowdfunding site it doesn’t matter who creates it: it’s not about you, it’s about your project.

But with music, it’s much more personal: what matters most is the artist, not the project they’re selling.

That’s why you shouldn’t see crowdfunding platforms as a way to get loads more popular with new audiences, but as a way to bring you closer to your fans – and to create something together.

Demand feedback

I would say this, but at Musicraiser we focus on giving the artists behind our projects real, quality one-on-one feedback.

We really want that to differentiate us from the likes of Indiegogo and Kickstarter – we want to know that, in our mind, our artists know we take care of them.

We are artists ourselves, and we know exactly how hard it is to put yourself out there and say: ‘Guys, I need money.’ Really, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Also, we know that being a great artist and being good at marketing are two things that don’t often naturally combine.

We tell our artists: ‘Let’s brainstorm together’ and have regular meetings with them on Skype, phone, mail.

Only by working closely with bands can you nail things like working out the optimal price, calculating mail costs – everything that seems small but really matters in the fan’s mind.

If you don’t feel that your crowdfunding platform is in it together with you, find another one!Music Business Worldwide

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